Disclaimer: The characters of Harry Potter are the creations and property of J.K. Rowling and related enterprises. Livia and her lot are mine.
Author's Note: I'm just so unbelievably overwhelmed by the amount of support and encouraging words that I've received for this story over the past week. I couldn't help but dive right into writing this chapter as soon as I uploaded chapter eleven. You all are awesome for following and reviewing so faithfully, and I really appreciate it. Since posting chapter eleven, I've received twenty reviews for EAGB, and I've so looked forward to reading all of them. So in our time honored tradition, I dedicate chapter twelve to all of you who took the time to review. This one is for you: .heaRt, xXxepicfallxXx, quidditchandsonicscrewdrivers, The Queen of Confusion, RoseblossomWarrior, andyandava, MorganMDW, Amyytje, RAWRitzvi, Vittaria, theideaofyou, and HellNOKitty! You all are fantastic!
I hope this chapter doesn't disappoint. Let's just say there are hen parties, confessions of all sorts, weddings, wedding crashers, and a bit of the unexpected. :)
Now, on with the show!
"True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced.
A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed."
When George Weasley first began to see the faint stirrings of colors and shapes, he immediately and quite tranquilly supposed that he was dead. After all, he was clearly in the proverbial tunnel, and was walking, ever so calmly, towards the light at the end of it. But when the light began to change colors, and the colors began to take shape, and the shapes began to look strangely like his old bedroom, he realized that death had not yet claimed him. And in spite of his overwhelming grogginess, he was blessedly relieved.
He opened his eyes slowly, and took his time hoisting himself to a shoddy sitting position. He immediately noticed that his torn and bloody clothing had been replaced by a pair of worn pajamas. Probably a pair of Bill's. And he felt significantly fresher than he remembered. If he knew his mother at all, she had waited until he was fast asleep, and took the time to clean him up. It just seemed like something his angel of a mother would do, especially considering how bruised and bloody he had been.
And his eyebrows furrowed together. Suddenly, the thought of his sweet mother washing the dried blood from off of his hands and face while he lay sleeping the pain away turned his stomach. The things she and his father had been through all because of You-Know-Who and his lot. If George had anything to say about it, Molly Weasley would never spend another minute of her life crying over her children. But something deep in heart told him that probably was not going to be the case.
At the very least, the Order had managed to retrieve Harry safely. That had been their objective, and they had been successful despite one or two setbacks. He squeezed his eyes shut tightly, and pushed away any and all thoughts of Moody. There would be time to grieve over the auror when all was said and done.
George opened his eyes once more, and looked about his room. It was exactly how he and Fred left it, and remained exactly as it should. Their twin beds were still in place. The closet door was still tied up and wired, so as to discourage any unwanted visitors (i.e. Percy or Ron) from sneaking through his and Fred's belongings lest they wanted to be covered with chicken feathers and syrup. Livia was asleep in the chair beside his bed. His quidditch gear was still up against the wall in the corner.
He blinked, and backtracked much too quickly for his sensibilities. Unfortunately, he was too far gone to care. Perhaps having his ear blown off had knocked him head around a bit as well, and he was imagining that she was there. But upon softly poking her, he realized that she wasn't a phantom of his potion induced sleep. She was real. Flesh and blood real. And really there.
Before he could process what to do next, he said her name. Loudly. And judging by her reaction, he may as well have poured the bucket of syrup and chicken feathers over her head. She heaved forward, heaved backward, toppled out of the chair, and caught herself before smashing into the floor.
Her head snapped to attention, and upon first glance at him, she smiled wildly.
"You're awake!" she said, her voice relaying every bit of her excitement. "I can't believe it!"
She cut him off, and rushed forward, putting her hand to his forehead. "Fred wasn't at all certain how long you would sleep."
But she continued on as if she didn't hear him. "Something to do with the Dreamless Sleep working differently for different people."
But once more, he was interrupted as her joy got the better of her. "Are you hungry? Or thirty! You must be thirsty. You've been asleep for two days. Of course you're thirsty!" She jumped to her feet, and made for the door.
"Livia," he all but shouted. "What in the bloody hell are you doing here?" And at that, she stopped, and turned around to face him. He immediately felt the urge to wince when he saw complete confusion etched across her face, but he sat up straighter and tried to overlook it.
"I'm here waiting for you to wake up," she offered, her voice sounding a bit pathetic to her own ears.
"No," he started. "Not just here in my room. I mean why are you here at this house? Why are you not home?"
Her eyebrows furrowed. "I came because you were hurt. And I had to be here in case you needed me."
George ran a weary hand over his face, and sighed deeply. "How did you even get here?" he asked quietly.
She bit her lip. "Hermione Granger."
He looked up quickly. "Come again?"
She began to wring her hands nervously. "Well, F-Fred sent her to come and fetch me when you got hurt. So she met me at m-my flat, and brought me here two days ago."
George threw his hands up. "And at what point did you, Fred, and Hermione conclude that this was a stellar idea?"
In hindsight, George would come to realize that while his intent was not to demean her in any way, his word choice and tone of voice quite helped to make it seem that way. And while Livia extended a generous amount of patience towards George on the account that he was wounded, she was not willing to be talked down to like a child.
She narrowed her eyes. "Don't go bringing Fred and Hermione into this. If it hadn't been for them, I'd still be home wondering what it is I've done to make you so upset with me!"
George blinked. "Why in the world would you suppose that I was upset with you?"
"Oh, I don't know, George. Perhaps because you've been more than a bit distant lately. I couldn't get you to come to my show. I couldn't even get you to respond to my owls!"
"I told you that I would be busy!" he said in a huff.
She crossed the space between them in three or four loud steps. "With business!" she all but shouted. "Not with secret missions where your life would be put in danger. Certainly not the kind where you come back half blown to pieces!"
"Look!" he started, resisting the urge to point his finger at her. "I told you that I'd be busy with work becaues I didn't want you to worry. Worry would only lead to you wanting to be here to help out in any way that you could, and all that would accomplish would be putting you in harm's way!"
He had hoped that his words would have triggered some sort of understanding in her. Unfortunately, there was none to be had. Her eyes simply widened. "And what if you hadn't made it back?"
He leaned back against his pillows, and stared up at the ceiling. "I did make it back."
Not at all assuaged by his response, Livia planted her hands on her hips. "Well, that's a good thing, isn't it? Because if you'd have had your way, I wouldn't have known that anything had happened till well after you were gone and buried." He was unable to stop his eyes from rolling at her unnecessary flair for theatrics, but that only served to fuel her anger. "I can see it now! I'd write Fred, and ask him 'Why is it that I haven't heard from George in well over two months?' And as per your request, he'd simply respond 'George is away. On business. Doing business stuff. For our business. But don't you worry. He'll get back to you as soon as he's back in town. It's not as though he's dead!'"
George gritted his teeth. "Look, what's done is done. I can't go back and change it. And you know what?" he said with a plastic smile. "I wouldn't change it, even if I could. Not at all. I made a judgement call, and I would make the same one again. You can run and rage all you'd like, but the fact remains that I was taking part in a dangerous mission. The sort of mission where I wasn't promised a return home. And as much as it pained me to ignore your owls and keep you in the dark, it was all for your good!"
When the sounds of raised voices reached her ears, Molly Weasley glanced up at the ceiling, and shook her head. With a smirk, she turned to face her husband only to find that he too was looking up at the ceiling.
"Your son is finally awake," she said.
"My son?" he asked in confusion.
But she simply nodded. "Yes. He's my son when he's wounded and bloody, and needs me to nurse him back to health. He's your son when he's making utterly ridiculous decisions like failing to tell Livia the truth about what he's been up to!"
"Fair enough," Arthur Weasley said before returning to his Daily Prophet.
Her eyes widened. "My good, huh?"
"Yes!" he snapped. "Your good. Everything that the Order is doing is leagues bigger than you or I. And as your boyfriend, I'm entitled to make those sorts of calls where your safety is concerned!"
He hadn't entirely planned for the word 'boyfriend' to come spilling out of his mouth so haphazardly, but considering the circumstances, the fault wasn't entirely on him. However, he wasn't at all expecting the reaction he received from Livia.
She laughed. Loudly. "Boyfriend? When did that happen?"
As it turned out, George Weasley didn't much care for being laughed at. "Oh, I don't know, Liv. Somewhere between our first date and our fiftieth snog!"
His words were clearly meant to rile her, but she refused to be baited. She simply smiled in return. "Boyfriend. Well now! That is especially interesting considering the fact that you bloody well never even told me that your brother was getting married in two days!" As she continued to speak, her volume increased, and George's eyes widened. She stomped over to his bed, and loomed over him. "Because, to me, that seems like the sort of thing that a bloke would tell his girlfriend!"
George spared a glance at the door, and hoped with everything within him that his parents couldn't hear what was going on. "But you know what?" she continued. "I'm willing to overlook that in light of the fact that you were participating in a search and rescue mission of which you didn't entirely anticipate returning from." The sugar sweet smile was back. "If, as my boyfriend, you're entitled to making important decisions regarding my safety, then, as your girlfriend, I'm entitled to knowing when you go rushing off headfirst into danger!"
In a dizzying rush, George threw off his covers, and shakily stood to his feet, relishing in the look of surprise in her eyes. "You know, if I wasn't so bloody in love with you, I'd enjoy watching Hagrid drag you back home!" he all but shouted.
"And if I wasn't so bloody in love with you, I'd tear your other ear off!" she yelled back.
The room fell deathly quiet as the two of them internalized exactly what had just happened. Or rather, what had just been said. George looked down at Livia. Livia, in turn, looked up at George.
"Did you just..."
"Yeah," he answered quickly. She bit her lip. "And did you just..."
"Yep," she said, just as quickly. They resumed their awkward staring until, without any warning, Livia turned on her heels, and made for the door.
George looked on in confusion. "Hang on, then," he said, and she stopped. "Where are you going?"
She turned around, and grimaced. "I'm getting your mother!" she said harshly. "She told me to come and find her once you woke up!" She opened the door. "And," she half shouted. "I'm getting you something to eat. You're looking a bit peaked!" And she slammed the door behind her leaving a rather baffled George alone to decipher just what in the world had just transpired.
Meanwhile, Livia leaned up against the shut door, and was staring quite fixedly upon a spot in the floor when she suddenly felt prompted to look to her left. Leaning up against the wall beside her stood Fred, Ron, and Ginny. They were pressed tightly as they tried their best to eavesdrop without being noticed. However, they hadn't included being found out by Livia into their equation, and they each stared at her with wide eyes.
She, in turn, couldn't help but smile. Her cheeks reddened underneath their stares as she walked past them towards the stairs, and began her descent. And her smile didn't fail or distinguish. He loved her. Was in love with her.
George Weasley was in love with Livia Daly. She bit her lip again.
Ron looked up and grimaced when the sounds of girlish laughter reached his ears. Unfortunately, his grimace failed to go unnoticed by his best friend or his brothers.
"Why do you keep making that face, Ron?" Harry asked from behind his cards.
Ron blinked. "What face?"
"He's right," Bill said, nursing his second firewhiskey as he studied his hand of cards. "Every time the girls are loud enough that we can hear them, your face gets all pinched."
Fred laughed. "It's definitely your 'this isn't going to end well' face."
"Well, this isn't going to end well!" he said, his voice cracking. "All of the girls? Together?"
George blinked. "Yeah?"
"And all of that laughing and wine?" Ron said.
Harry looked around at the others to make sure that he wasn't missing something. "Yeah?" he offered after a moment.
"And of course, their heads'll be up in the clouds on account of the wedding tomorrow," Ron added, shaking his head nervously.
"Ron," Fred started. "Quite frankly, we haven't had enough to drink yet to be able to follow your senseless line of thought without a little help."
Ron, in turn, threw his cards down in frustration. "Am I the only one nervous about what's going on in there? What they're talking about? Or rather who they're talking about?"
The group fell into silence as the gravity of the situation began to dawn on them. Unfortunately, Ron felt it necessary to delve further in. "Ginny? Fleur? Livia?" He swallowed hard. "Hermione?" The others looked around at one another only to find matching looks of panic. Harry stared off into space. Bill downed the rest of his firewhiskey. And George carelessly tossed his cards on the floor.
"He's right," he said, sighing loudly as though he'd just been told that he had five minutes left to live before the world caved in on itself. "You know they're talking about all of us."
A pregnant hush fell over the group. At least until Fred spoke up. "Wrong." And the others looked up at him eagerly. "They're talking about all of you. At the moment, Angelina isn't tibbling wine in Ginny's room with the rest of the girls. I'm blissfully unaccounted for!"
Another round of hysterical laughter broke out from Ginny's room, and the men, with the exception of Fred, groaned.
"And zen before I even knew what was 'appening, William was kissing me!" Fleur said dreamily as she sipped her elderflower wine.
"That's so romantic," Hermione said softly.
However, her comment only seemed to amuse Fleur. "Yes, it was until ze point zat I completely forgot what I was doing, dropped ze bag of diamonds, an' made a complete mess. Needless to say, Gringott's iz not ze best place to act on one's romantic feelings." Livia smiled appreciating the fact that she wasn't the only one who could wreak a fair bit of havoc when the occasion called for it. "I nearly lost my job. The goblins were furious. I started to cry. It was awful." And then she smiled coyly. "And so to make up for it, William took me out on a date, and spent ze evening wining and dining me." She sighed dramatically. "And from zat point on, I was...'ow do you say...'ooked!"
The girls laughed, and toasted once more before Ginny smirked wickedly. "Speaking of hooked," she glanced over at Hermione who immediately averted her eyes. "Any chance that you'll be admitting your feelings for Ron sometime this century?"
Fleur laughed loudly, but Hermione only raised an eyebrow cooly. "I'm quite sure I don't know what you mean. The feelings I have for Ron are of the platonic sort. Same as Harry and myself."
"But I don't theenk zat I've seen you look at 'Arry ze way you look at Ronald!"
Hermione blushed, and Livia shook her head. "Wait, I'm confused. So the two of you aren't together?" Hermione looked up and shook her head. "Oh, I just assumed. Sorry. It's just that the two of us seem very...close."
Ginny burst into laughter. "Yes, they do seem close, don't they?" she teased. Hermione's blushed furiously, and to add insult to injury, attempted to cover her cheeks with her hands as if it could undo the damage. Livia smiled at the obvious hopelessness of the situation while Ginny put her arms around Hermione's shoulders.
And while Fleur enjoyed their little game, she felt it necessary to offer Hermione a bit of a reprieve. "Alright ladies!" she said, calling attention to her as she lifted her glass of wine. "What iz ze craziest theeng you've ever done for love?"
They all laughed at the question, and then fell into silence as they looked at one another to see who would speak up first.
And in typical Fleur fashion, the bride to be straightened her back, and cleared her throat. "I pretended like I couldn't properly count in English!" The girls giggled furiously as she nodded her head proudly. "I can't even recall all of ze times I interrupted William at work just to ask him what came after twenty or to remind me how to count by fives!"
"You must be joking!" Livia said, grinning like mad.
Fleur raised an eyebrow in a well practiced manner. "And might I just add that he's a wonderful teacher."
Livia laughed aloud while Hermione tried to hide her amused smile behind her hands. And Ginny simply grimaced, slightly disturbed at Fleur's insinuations.
Eager to move on, Ginny cleared her throat, making it more or less clear that it was her turn. All eyes fell on her as she spoke calmly. "The craziest thing I've ever done is kiss Harry Potter."
The three girls wore matching looks of confusion. "How is that the craziest thing you've done?" Livia asked, feeling as though she completely missed the punch line.
Ginny smirked. "Well, I was dating Dean Thomas at the time." At that, the girls all burst into hysterics. Just how much of the hysterics was due to the amount of elderberry wine being consumed, the girls didn't know, but they weren't in the frame of mind to speculate. It was Fleur's last night of singlehood, and they were determined to have a bit of fun. Ordinarily, the hen party wouldn't take place in Ginny's bedroom, but rather out and about where all sorts of fun (naughty or otherwise) could be had. But with circumstances being what they were, they simply could not risk leaving the Burrow. Not even for well mannered fun. And so, with that in mind, they let the wine pour freely, they talked about utter nonsense, and they laughed without restraint.
Ginny turned towards Hermione when her giggles had finally subsided. "Your turn, Granger!"
Hermione sat for a moment in what appeared to be deep thought before smiling shyly. Coyly. And then with a sigh, threw up her hands in resignation. Livia could almost imagine Hermione waving the metaphorical white flag of surrender.
"I hit Cormac McClaggen with a Confundus Charm during Quidditch tryouts because he was claiming that Ginny was going easy on Ron on the sole basis that he was her brother therefore implying that Ronald was not capable of playing as Gryffindor's Seeker even though that was absolutely not true!" she exclaimed, impressively enough in a single breath.
"Very nice," Livia said with a smirk.
Fleur stared at the brown haired witch with wide eyes. "Why, 'Ermione Granger, you are quite ze animal!"
Hermione's shoulders slumped in shame. "I know. I engaged another person in unnecessary violence. It isn't one of the high points in my life, I assure you!" But she couldn't help but smile when the other girls broke out into laughter, and after a moment or two, she joined in.
"And this was recently?" Livia asked with a laugh.
Hermione cringed. "Quite."
Livia's eyes narrowed. "What are you wearing to the wedding tomorrow?" There was a playful lilt in her voice. Hermione shrugged, not entirely understanding the point of the question. "Because weddings, you know, are a great reason to doll up!" And she wiggled her eyebrows shamelessly.
But Hermione just shrugged again, this time a bit hopelessly. "I don't think that would help the situation. I'm sure that Ronald wouldn't even notice. Besides," she added as an afterthought. "It's his brother's wedding. I wouldn't feel comfortable making myself up like that. It's only right that all of the attention should be on you," she said to Fleur.
But the French girl just smirked. "Oh, I 'appily give you permission."
Hermione smiled softly, but did so with a heavy sigh. Her secret was out. Her very big, very important, possibly life altering, and, at the very least, highly inappropriate secret was out. It was only a matter of time before it all got back to Ron, and at that point, her life would surely be over.
Ginny grinned at Hermione, perfectly aware of how she was feeling at the moment. She took Hermione's hand in her own. "I hear that confession is good for the soul," she said softly. "And it certainly isn't as though you would have trouble getting him to return your sentiment," she said with a teasing smile. But then her smile faded, and her eyes suddenly took on a serious shine. "Ron would take the killing curse for you. Every day until forever if it meant your safety and happiness. You know that, right?"
Hermione felt the back of her eyes begin to sting with tell tale tears, but she ushered them away. Sentimentality simply wasn't her forte. Rationality and logic were. Still, hearing those words, from Ginny of all people, did seem to make her heart feel a bit lighter.
She finally gave in, and heaved a sigh of relief before turning to face Livia. "All right. Your turn. What's the craziest thing you've ever done for love?" The remaining girls turned to face Livia with curious expressions and wide eyes as she contemplated her answer.
And when she figured it out, she looked up. "This one time, I walked away from the role of principle dancer in my company's show. Basically, something I've worked towards for years. And I...I didn't exactly go about it the right way. Sort of just bolted without telling them," she said with a laugh.
"What 'appened after?" Fleur asked.
"Well, my role went to my understudy. Something I'm sure she appreciated. And since I didn't 'behave responsibly' when I abandoned my post, I got...kicked out of my company." She shrugged after a moment's quiet. "They were a bit strict about that sort of thing. I...guess I brought on myself."
Hermione's eyebrows furrowed. "How is that the craziest thing you've done for love?"
"Well, I...I walked away from the show for this guy," Livia said, finishing off her glass of wine.
Fleur sighed romantically. "Why?"
There was a quiet beat before she spoke up again. "Well, you see, the guy...this guy got hurt." She paused once more. "Got his ear blown off actually." At that, Hermione, Ginny, and Fleur caught each other's eyes. Livia, on the other hand, was staring into her empty glass, her face suddenly quite serious. And the amount of wine consumed certainly didn't help. "You know how in movies, there's that scene where the son gets into a horrible car accident, and you have to watch his mother hear about it from the police?" Her eyes glistened up. "It sort of felt like that. I mean, here was this guy that sort of just fell into my life when I wasn't even looking for him, and then all at once, I was faced with the very real possibility that he was going to disappear."
She choked on a sob. "I'd worked so hard to get that role, and to make everything perfect because it was what I wanted more than anything. But then one day, I stupidly crashed into a total stranger at a joke shop, and out of nowhere, I just sort of knew that he was the only one that I wanted to crash into forever. And just like that, I didn't care about dancing or about what my director would think or do. I just needed to be here. To see him. To make sure that he didn't...slip away."
Perhaps the silence only last seconds. Maybe minutes. It could have been hours. But Livia didn't look up till she felt a hand slide into her own, and she met Ginny Weasley's tearful eyes.
"I'm so glad you're here, Livia," she said softly. "For the wedding. In our lives. With George."
Fleur and Hermione agreed in their own particular ways which only led to a rather childish pout from Livia. Unfortunately, what the pout led to was a wine induced group hug where each girl managed to get both arms around someone else while, impressively, maintaining hold of her wine glass.
But it all came to a crashing halt when Fleur threw her hands up and demanded silence to which the girls immediately complied. "Wait a minute," she hushed. Her expression was that of sudden concern, and the other girls had no choice but to follow suit. "What are movies? And what on earth iz a car?"
At first, there was a barely concealed giggle from Livia who hid it behind her hand, and attempted to pass it off as a cough. Coincidentally, Hermione was sipping politely at her wine, but when Livia's cough-giggle reached her ears, she choked on her drink. It was seconds later when Ginny and Livia burst into a round of hysterics, and seconds after that when Fleur and Hermione joined in.
Livia couldn't help but smile as she looked at her reflection in Ginny's mirror. While she had never cared an exhorbitant amount about personal appearances, she couldn't deny the fact that she quite liked the way that she looked at the moment. The girls had certainly made an evening of their evening, and she felt as though she were running on the last drudges of sleep she had managed to muster before Molly barged in, and demanded that the girls begin getting ready. After all, a wedding would wait for no man. Or woman. And so, with matching groans that screamed of semiconsciousness, the girls pulled themselves out of bed, and began the arduous task of getting ready.
But after taking her shower, Livia was pleased to note that, in a magical household, getting ready was a much simpler task than she expected. Her worries that the lack of electricity, and thus a hairdryer, would only slow the process down, but a quick drying spell uttered by Hermione had all of the girls ready for hair and make up. Fortunately, that was a relatively simple task as well. A charm, spoken by Ginny, seemingly brought her hair to life, and Livia watched in unbridled delight as her hair began to bend and curl, wrap under, and loop through. And by the end of the affair, her blonde hair maintained a graceful wave to it with half of it up and held tight in a beautifully intricate knot.
Applying make up took similar effort, and before long, all of the girls were ready for dresses. Livia immediately paled upon rememberance of the fact that she had nothing with her that she could deem appropriate for a wedding. But Fleur, who was much more aware of the heights of fashion than Ginny or Hermione, circled around Livia in careful inspection, taking note of things like Livia's height, bone structure, and her overall color. When she was satisfied enough, she cast a spell that Livia hadn't heard before, but had to be some of the most beautiful magic that she had ever seen. That, of course, was taking into account the fact that Livia hadn't seen very much magic.
But she watched in wide eyed amazement as the blouse and jeans she had worn the night before began to twist and morph into something new entirely. Her skin felt warm and so wonderfully tingly as magic began to take root in the very stitches of her outfit, and she silently thanked her stars for allowing her such a rare moment to feel so unlike a squib.
By the end of the ordeal, Fleur nodded her head, obviously pleased with her handiwork, and went back to working on herself. Livia, however, was too busy looking at her reflection. And it was in that same place, in front of the mirror, that she wandered back to an hour later. Ginny and Hermione had gone downstairs to help with any last minute touches that Molly might require while Fleur went to find her newly arrived parents and sister. Livia was completely alone. And because she was completely alone, she felt less embarrassed when all of her excitement bubbled over past her breaking point, and she twirled, rather childishly, in front of the mirror and reveled in the sight of her dress flowing around her.
It was a beautiful cranberry red that worked well against her creamy skin, and it fell just above her knees. A good sized bow sat high up on her stomach, and pulled the dress in around her as it met her curves, but certainly didn't squeeze them. Initially, Livia had felt a little more exposed than she was accustomed to when she took in the sleeveless and strapless nature of the dress. But then her words to Hermione just hours before rang in her head. Weddings were a great reason to doll up. So while the dress was so unlike her, she would exercise daring and bare her shoulders. And it was with that resolve that she finally pulled away from the mirror, and made the trek downstairs to find everybody else.
Or rather, to find George. And if she knew him at all, she figured the best place to start would be the kitchen. However, as she neared the kitchen, it wasn't George that she met with first.
"Hey, Ginny," she said as the youngest Weasley came out of the kitchen. The red head looked up at her, and smiled nervously before shuffling past her leaving a curious Livia in her wake. But she just shook her head, chalking it up to witch problems, and continued into the kitchen.
Fortunately, her instincts on George had been correct. He was, in fact, standing in the kitchen. But he wasn't alone. And suddenly, Livia felt more distinctly that she had missed something. A rather big something if she could judge at all by the uncomfortable tension between George and Harry as they stared at one another. George was sporting a very familiar smirk, but upon further inspection of Harry, Livia couldn't help but be reminded of a cornered mouse. Inevitably, the stare broke, and Harry exited the kitchen with what could only be called haste.
Livia's eyebrows furrowed as she watched him leave. Or rather, retreat.
"Care for some tea?" George asked with a laugh on his voice as he dragged her out of her current train of thought. She turned to face him, and smiled.
He handed her a fresh cup of hot tea, and watched as she took her spot next to him against the countertop. A pleasant hush fell between them. The sort of hush that was bound to occur when the 'L' word had been spoken. But neither of them were quite up to the task of talking about that particular situation. They chose instead to look awkardly at one another and laugh. The time would eventually come when they would be forced to confront the situation, but that time was not today.
After a moment, Livia caught sight of something rather peculiar, and raised an eyebrow. "Are you aware that there is a toothbrush sticking out of where an ear used to be?"
"Absolutely," he said easily as he sipped his tea. And she just nodded her head. Of course there would be a toothbrush in what remained of his ear. Why wouldn't there be?
After a moment's pause, George looked down at Livia who was staring distractedly into her teacup. "Did you know that Harry is snogging my sister?" he asked with a smirk.
"Absolutely," she responded, just as easily, and his smirk stretched into a smile. After a moment's pause, she looked up at him, and watched as he sipped at his tea.
"Did you know..."
"That Hermione wishes that she were snogging my brother?" he said, interrupting her. "Absolutely."
She couldn't help but laugh at the curious wizard standing beside her, and when the laugh dissipated, she gave in to her instincts, moved closer beside him, and leaned her head against him. He, in turn, looked down, and felt the corners of his mouth turn up. Without a word, he kissed the top of her head, and inhaled deeply. Gardenia.
After a long moment, she looked up at him. "Do you think..."
"That you are the most stunning creature that has ever existed, and that you look completely gorgeous right now?" he said smoothly. "Absolutely."
Her pale cheeks turned a familiar shade of soft pink as she blushed furiously, her eyes staring unreservedly at his own. And he was suddenly overtaken by the urge to press his lips against hers.
But after a pause, she simply smirked. "Actually, I was going to ask if you thought that it'd be a good idea to go find your parents, and see if they needed anymore help." And she laughed in spite of herself.
George Weasley smiled and raised an eyebrow in a manner than was haughty, and completely irresistible. "Absolutely not."
It was in a comfortable silence that the two of them finished their tea. It was also in a comfortable silence that his hand sought hers.
August 1, 1997
Impressively enough, the wedding went off without a hitch which was a feat none too welcomed for all parties involved. The road leading up to the blessed occasion had been a bumpy one considering Molly's initial dislike of Fleur, Bill's injury at the hands of Fenrir, and the slight hiccup that was Harry's rescue. But when the wizard presiding over the ceremony declared them bonded for all of life to come, and Bill Weasley kissed his new bride for the first time, Livia could easily discern the sounds of Molly and Madame Delacour's weeping over the din of applause. And she smiled. It felt wonderful to think that, for a moment, all of the troubles brewing within the world had fizzled away to make room for love.
Livia, of course, knew that wasn't necessarily the case, and that just outside of the wedding marquee, evil was still lurking. But it was so hard to see it when all around her was nothing but smiles and kisses and magic and tears of joy. And although she had attended one or two weddings before, they paled in comparison to the one that she was currently enjoying. She was also quite convinced that she had never seen anything more beautiful. Between magical showers of stars, and birds of paradise, and the look on Bill's face when he beheld Fleur for the first time, and the look on Fleur's face when Bill proudly declared 'I do', Livia Daly was certain that the wedding was like nothing she had ever experienced.
She looked up at George who stood beside her, and smiled widely. The look of fierce pride on his face as he watched his newly married brother parade around the dance floor with his beautiful arm on his arm warmed her heart. She knew George Weasley to know that he was watching the scene with a sure sense of gratefulness in his heart. Gratefulness for being spared long enough to witness the occasion, and to be there with his family. To think that the curse needed only to move an inch or two to the left, and the day would've been marked with a funeral instead of a wedding. A marking of death instead of a celebration of life and love. And it chilled Livia to think so.
But a wedding was no place to think on such things, so she gladly shook the thoughts from her mind, and joined in the applause with the rest of the guests as Bill tipped down to meet Fleur's lips.
Molly and Arthur approached, faces flushed with excitement and pure, unadulterated joy.
"George dear," Molly started, taking his chin in her hands which was a bit of a feat considering the sizable difference in height between the two. "Make my heart happy, and spin me around that dancefloor like you did when you were young!" George laughed, kissed her cheek, and all too happily obliged while Livia watched, an unbidden smile on her face. Arthur laughed aloud at the sight before turning to face her.
"Why don't we go show those two bats how it's done?" he asked, extending his hand to her. She laughed, and curtseyed, only too happy to join him. And before long, they squeezed past the necessary bodies, and planted themselves right beside George and Molly.
"I've got to hand it to you, Georgie," Arthur said. "Your Livia is an excellent dancer."
"Why. thank you, Mr. Weasley," Livia answered with a smile on her voice.
"I wouldn't let that go to your head, Liv," George teased. "Dad's measurement for excellent dancing is seeing how many times he can step on his partner's toes before she starts to scream in pain."
Arthur laughed. "Sad to say it's true although I have gotten better over the years. Right, Molly?"
"Of course you have, daddy," she answered back, rolling her eyes playfully at George.
"Fortunately," Livia started. "Years of dancing on my toes till they're bloody and raw have prepared me for such an occasion. So feel free to step on my toes, Mr. Weasley. There won't be any screaming from me."
Once again, Arthur laughed. "I like this one, George. Knows how to keep us with us!" And then he looked at Livia. "And it's Arthur, please." He grinned at her, and she couldn't help but return it feeling much to at ease in the moment to offer any sort of protest. And so she nodded once.
It was a wonderfully peaceful moment that the four of them settled into, and George found himself immensely pleased with the picture set before him. Bill married. Charlie actually around, and laughing as goodnaturedly as ever. His mother in his arms. Fred charming a group of Fleur's Veela cousins (and doing it without the use of magic). Ron burning holes into the back of Viktor Krum's head as he twirled around the dance floor with Hermione, the whole scene bringing to George's remembrance the Yule Ball. Ginny was smiling flirtingly at a red-headed and polyjuiced Harry. The whole scene was blissful and perfect.
Well, not entirely perfect. It had pained Molly deeply when Percy declined the invitation to attend his oldest brother's wedding, and it pained George to see his mother so distraught. It also pained him to think that his brother cared more about his position in life and his current alliances than his own family. The whole thing left a bitter taste in his mouth.
But there wasn't anything that he could do about it at the moment. In the deepest parts of his heart, he had faith in Percy. Faith that he would eventually come to his senses, and take his rightful place by his family's side.
"Oh, Livia," Arthur's voice penetrated George's thoughts. "I've been meaning to ask you something vitally important. Rodeo clowns. I can't quite wrap my head around them. From what I understand about clowns, there is an element of humor involved, but there doesn't seem to be anything funny about death by raging bull. And in terms of clowns in general, what is the appeal? Is it their awful face paint? And why do they wear such enormous shoes? Surely, they can't help in terms of balance. And also, what exactly is a rodeo?"
"All right, daddy," Molly said, yanking him away from a wide eyed and slack jawed Livia. "Give the poor girl some room to breathe, and step on my toes for a while." She winked at Livia.
His initial intent momentarily off of his mind, Arthur kissed his wife's hand, and bowed before her respectfully before seizing her up against him, and whisking her away. Livia laughed at the peculiarity of it all.
That is, she did laugh until George turned to face her with a roguish look in his eyes, and she felt quite suddenly that her stomach was full of butterflies currently waltzing in their own special way. He took her hand in his and pulled her against him.
"So have you had quite enough of this wedding?" he said wiggling his eyebrows.
She laughed. "I don't think so. I'm having a lovely time."
"As am I. A lovely time, indeed. But you know what would be even lovelier?"
"What?" she asked excitedly, playing along with his little game.
"Sneaking back behind the house, and snogging till our hair stands on end!"
She promptly burst into a fit of laughter before placing his had on her waist, curling her right arm around his neck, and taking his remaining hand in her own. Before he had a chance to resist, the two of them were swaying in a wonderful rhythm. "See, I would, but I don't want this dress to get all sullied and wrinkled. And I rather like my hair tonight. Something that doesn't happen much too often, and so before you go suggesting things that'll make my hair stand on end, take a moment to consider the fact that I'll probably never look this put together again! Ever!"
Her eyes drifted shut on their own accord when he bridged the gap between them, and kissed her soundly. She could feel his sturdy shoulders rising and falling with each blissful breath, and she sighed heavily. At some point, the two of them had ceased their swaying, but neither of them could spare the sense to notice.
However, both of them had sense to spare when a burst of light broke through the top of the marquee tent, and landed in the middle of the dancefloor. All of the music ceased, and all of the laughter died. Livia and George broke apart, and drew their immediate to the patronus.
"The ministry has fallen." George immediately recognized the voice as Kingsley Shacklebot, and knew without a shadow of a doubt that life, as he knew it, was about to be turned upside down.
And violently so.
"The minister of magic is dead." A fearful murmur arose from the wedding guests as the news struck them hard. The minister dead was dead. And every single person under the sound of Kingley's disembodied voice wondered 'how could this have happened?'.
"They are coming." Livia felt George's hand grasp hers frantically, and as if on instinct, she moved into him seeking what little refuge he could offer. And through the suit that he wore, through the skin underneath it, and through the bones in his chest, she could feel his heart pounding.
She looked up him, her eyes wide with terror. "They?" George swallowed hard.
"They are coming," the voice said in a loaded whisper screams of horror and pain could be heard from within the ball of light. George's grip on her hand tightened painfully. And her heart skipped a frenzied beat.
As if on cue, the crowds erupted into chaos and movement, every person trying to locate their party and disapparate before the time came when they wouldn't be allowed to. But for Livia, everything seemed to move as if in slow motion. Her eyes drifted over to Bill and Fleur who held each other tightly, whispering last minutes words of love and promises to stay together, to stay safe.
And then, they arrived. Deatheaters. Livia watched in unrestrainded fear as flames began to travel up and down the lengths of the marquee walls, some of it creeping onto the beautifully set table tops.
Somehow, in the midst of all of the commotion, Livia's hand was wrenched away from George's, and she watched as he was pushed further away from her by the scores of people trying to escape with their very lives. She attempted to move with the crowds, but found herself immobile, her legs suddenly filled with lead. And instead of moving away from the deatheaters moving ever close, her knees gave way beneath her, and she fell in a crumpled heap.
She did her best to cover her head, and shut her eyes tightly, hoping against all hope that when death came, and it inevitably would, it would take her swiftly. However, it was not death reached out to grab her. It was a hand. A hand that wrapped itself around her own, and began the arduous task of pulling her off of the floor.
Livia's eyes shot open. "George!" she exclaimed, but immediately noticed that she was wrong in her assumptions. Large grey eyes stared back at her. Eyes that she might've described as dreamy were they not so filled with fear and concern. Livia stood to her foot as the girl with the bright yellow dressrobes helped her to stand, and while everything around them was falling apart at the seams, Livia found a second to take note of the sunflower pinned to the girl's long blond hair. Livia had met the girl earlier although her name was escaping her. Luna something or other.
"Thank you," Livia rushed as Luna tried her best to smile at her before she ran off to join a man who, by their shared features, Livia guessed was her father. The two of them disapparated seconds later.
The whole interlude had taken mere seconds, but Livia felt as though it had happened over the course of long minutes, and when she turned her head to search for George, she saw him struggling against the crowds to reach her. A moment later, they were reunited as his eyes quickly raked over in order to detail any injuries, and when he was satisfied, they too began to run. He whipped his wand around smartly, and did his best to keep their path clear on deatheaters bent on destruction. And they stopped running when they finally reached his family.
"Harry?" Molly asked George, her eyes wide with fear. She knew just who the deatheaters were after. Everyone knew.
"He's gone," Arthur shouted as he reached the group, wand at the ready. "Saw him escape with Ron and Hermione." Molly's eyes watered in response, but she held them at bay, and simply nodded. Arthur turned around to face the dwindling group of wedding guests and the offending deatheaters. Of all of the disasters that he had expected would occur on the day of his oldest son's wedding, this had not been one of them. He watched as terrified guests began to choke out answers to the barrage of questions being hurled at them by the deatheaters. 'So that's why they're here,' he thought to himself. He turned back to face his family. "It's an interrogation," he said quietly. "Keep close together, and mind what you say about Harry or the others. He was never here." They all nodded.
And in what appeared to be a blur to Livia, men in withered black robes were questioning the Weasley family about their relationship with Potter and his current whereabouts. Arthur remained stone faced as he answered their questions with false information and just the right amount of trepidation. But Livia couldn't help but wonder if the trembling in his voice was all pretend, or if she wasn't imagining the fear behind his eyes.
When the deatheaters were more or less satisfied, they moved on to the next group of people leaving the Weasleys alone to heave sighs of relief. Livia, however, kept her eyes firmly fixed on the deatheaters. While she had heard plenty about them growing up, she had never, in her life, layed her eyes on one, and she never cared to again. Her hands shook in fear, and she clasped them behind her back in a sad attempt to keep them still.
"Wait a bloody minute!" someone shouted, and everyone one still within the marquee quieted. George watched as the only werewolf among the deatheater's party began to sniff the air. He could easily tell that the creature was a werewolf, but knew that it wasn't Fenrir. Perhaps one of his pack, but not the wolf himself, and for that, George was grateful. If it had been, there would be no telling what Bill would have done. "I smell..." The wolf sniffed the air again. "Muggle blood."
George's stomach dropped.
"It's probably just one of these filthy mudbloods," a nearby deatheater said, his lips pulled into a disgusted sneer.
But the wolf just shook his head. "No, not muggleborn." And then, without warning, his eyes fell on Livia. "Muggle."
Her breath hitched as all of the deatheaters, as one, turned to face her.
The werewolf smiled widely, his sharpened incisors catching her attention. "What do you know," he laughed. "It's dinner and a show." Without warning, he charged forward, and bared down on her. Somewhere, a scream was heard. As if on instinct, George pushed her behind him, and raised his wand, fully prepared to kill. But the time didn't come.
Remus Lupin stepped quickly, and the approaching werewolf pulled to a hasty stop, growing as he did it. "She has no quarrel with you," Lupin said sternly. "So I would highly suggest that you turn around, and leave her be."
The werewolf, in turn, sniffed the air around Remus once, and then narrowed his eyes. And George realized that the werewolf could easily tell just who...and what he was talking to.
"Well, your suggestion has been duly noted," the werewolf said with a malicious grin. Then his eyes traveled from Lupin's back to Livia's. "Unfortunately, I love muggle blood almost as much as Lord Voldemort hates it."
In the blink of an eye, he pounced, shoving Remus out of the way and into a nearby table as he made his way towards the group of Weasleys, and thus, towards Livia.
"Dad!" George shouted, and as if set to snap, Arthur Weasley grabbed Livia's arm in his, and for the second time in her entire life, she felt the gut wrenching pull on her stomach, typical of a side-along apparation.
Moments later, she came in contact with hard cobblestone streets, and fell hard to her knees.
"Are you all right?" Arthur asked, hoisting her up roughly, and setting her against the nearby wall. She nodded quickly, all the while trying to keep her head from spinning. Hermione was right. Holding her breath did make the trip much more bearable and much less traumatic. Unfortunately, the whole thing had happened so fast that she had no time to think much less breathe. "I gather you can find your way back from here?" he asked propeling her to open her eyes.
Hanging above her head was the familiar sign for the Leaky Cauldron. She was back in Diagon Alley, and just a few short steps from muggle London. She could find her way home from here in the dark.
She looked at Arthur, and nodded once more.
"Right then," he said, as he turned away from her to apparate back to his family.
She took a wobbily step forward. "Thank you!" she blurted into the night, her voice bouncing off of the brick walls beside them.
He turned around to face her, and smiled weakly. "Mind yourself on the way home, and get there fast." And in the blinking of an eye, he was gone.
She sighed heavily as she made her way towards the stone wall that separated the wizarding world from her own. And for the first time in a long time, she found herself grateful for her squib status. For all of the beauty and magic and absolute charm the wizarding world had to offer, there was also untold evil that lay bubbling beneath the surface, and it seemed as though you couldn't have one without the other. You couldn't have the beauty without the pain. Perhaps her world was sadly lacking where magic and mystery were concerned, but it was also lacking in a very specific sort of darkness.
Her eyes filled to the brim with tears as she felt fear take over. Fear for George. For his family. For Bill and Fleur's new life together. For Harry, Ron, and Hermione. For the grey eyed blonde girl and her father. So the selfless man that had stepped out and faced a werewolf for her. And the more she dwelt on the fear that was slowly creeping into her and arresting all of her faculties and sensibilities, the more helpless and hopeless she felt. What was going to happen to George? To them? To everyone and everything?
Yes, she had told Arthur that would head straight home, but she felt herself running in a different direction. Away from the Leaky Cauldron. Away from London, and home, and safety. There was somewhere else she needed to be. Someone she needed to see.
It was a bit of run to get to where she was going, but the streets were empty, and the going was easy. And before she knew it, she was looking at a bright red door. Without a moment's pause, she began banging on the door. And she didn't stop banging until the door swung open.
"Livia?" Mr. Daly exclaimed, taking in the sight of his one and only daughter panting and heaving at his door. "What in the world are you doing here?"
She ran past him without a word, and ran deeper into the house. It took her no time to locate her mother who was busy attending to some light sewing. But when Livia burst into the room, she stood up quickly. "Livia? Why are..."
But she was briskly interrupted as Livia erupted into sobs, crossed the space between them, and threw herself into her mother's arms. Mrs. Daly, in turn, fell completely still. The room was silent save for Livia's choking cries as she fisted her mother's nightgown in her hands. Mr. Daly watched without a word. He watched as his wife stared in bewilderment at the girl clinging to her as if holding onto dear life. He watched as his wife slowly, so slowly, brought her hands up, and carefully placed them on their daughter's back. He watched as his wife looked up at him, her eyes full of questions.
Hurried footsteps reached their ears as Declan entered the room. "Hey!" he whined. "What is she doing here? I thought she..."
"Quiet, Declan!" Mr. Daly all but shouted. At once, Declan closed his mouth, his eyes wide with shock. "Go back to your room this instant!" And all that was seen of Declan Daly was the back of his pajamas as he turned on his toes, and raced up the stairs.
Mr. Daly turned back around to find that his wife and daughter were in exactly the same spot. Livia was still heaving heart wrendering cries. For what or for whom, Mr. Daly had no idea. But it unsettled him. Mrs. Daly, in turn, had taken to rubbing Livia's back softly, her hands moving in an unfamiliar pattern. Unfamiliar because the last time she had rubbed her daughter's back in comfort was when she was eight, and had been teased mercilessly about her lack of magical abilities by a group of young neighborhood wizards. At that point, Mrs. Daly was still under the impression that her daughter would still grow up to be a first class witch. Unfortunately for both mother and daughter, that dream never became a reality. The comforting words and back rubs stopped soon after.
Mr. Daly found himself moving towards the pair, and stopped when he reached them. He was prepared for a great many things when he finally joined his wife's side. But he wasn't prepared for the look in her eyes when she finally gazed up at him. Concern. Motherly concern. And pain. For their daughter. Such as he hadn't seen in a very, very long time.
She tore her eyes away from her husband's, and settled them back on Livia. And as if moved by a force outside of herself, Mrs. Daly raised a shaky hand, and allowed it to hover above her daughter's head before she gave in, and began running her fingers through Livia's messy hair.
Livia cried harder.
Endnote: So there it is. Chapter eleven. I know it was waaaay packed, but I didn't feel it appropriate to end it anywhere else. It just wouldn't have felt complete. Thank you all for pushing through it. Now, see that little review button down below? Hit it! And then let me know what you thought!
See you all soon!